For the past couple of months, I've been reading Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat (3rd edition). Considered one of the foundational texts for many globalized programs, both in and out of the educational sphere, I felt that I should read it. I'm about 75 pages away from finishing the book.
You need to understand that for me to say that I've been reading a book for a couple of months is a big deal. I can typically read a 700 page book in a matter of a week or two. I have been known in the past to finish 700 page books in a day, given the right conditions (a lounge chair, in the shade, at the beach, on a warm summer's day). I have found myself to be incredibly frustrated at myself and my motivation for finishing this book is, to be honest, not very high. My husband has even heard me declare "I can't read this book!" However, I know the value I will get from finishing it is important, and I've set myself a goal to finish it. I expect to be done in a week, or two.
What is important to note, is that even though this text is difficult, I have little background knowledge in the topics, and I find myself frustrated with the text, I still have the skills I need in order to be able to read and learn from it. Skills that took years of instruction, practice, and even teaching about before I really could claim them as my own. Would I be able to finish this book if I didn't know how to use context clues and close reading to make meaning out of jargon and unfamiliar terms? Would I be able to finish this book if I got so frustrated with it that I grew to hate it? Would I have even started this book if I didn't have any interest in learning about what the author had to teach?
All this brings me to my point. Our students, whether in elementary, middle, high school or college, are being asked to read texts on various topics, at various reading levels, and with various levels of interest. Most students, no matter what their age, aren't going to push their way through a book that is at or above their frustration level. Most students, no matter what their interest in the topic, aren't going to read a book that they can't understand because of the denseness of the jargon or specialized vocabulary. Most students aren't going to read a book they have no interest in nor that they have any prior background knowledge of.
My struggles, as I've read this book, have actually made me more meta-cognitive of my reading strategies. I've actually had to use several of the strategies and techniques that I've taught my students; strategies that I've never personally had to use because reading has always been easy for me.
I only wish that I had tried reading this book before I left the classroom and became an administrator. Maybe it would have affected how I teach reading strategies to my students. I certainly would have been able to do so with more understanding of their struggles. I caught myself complaining "I can't read this!" and gave myself the same pep-talk I tended to give my students - and found it to be just as eye-roll worthy as I'm sure my students did. I don't think I've said "I can't read this" since the third grade. This whole process has been incredibly humbling.
Oh, and if you're interested, I would certainly recommend this book to other people. Specifically people who have an interest in technology or economics. If you're an educator interested in globalized education, you should read it as well as it is one of the foundational texts for such programs as The Flat Classroom project, and other globalized educational researchers have referenced it in their own writing. Just realize, that it may be more difficult than you think.